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Amputation instrument set, London, England, 1831-1870

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Carried in a mahogany chest, this set contains a range of instruments needed by a surgeon to carry out a limb amputation. It includes an amputation saw, four Liston knives, a finger saw, three scalpels, artery forceps, bone forceps, a tenaculum (a hook-like instrument to move arteries and blood vessels out of the way). Also, a tourniquet and silk ligatures to sew up and close wounds. Liston knives are named after their inventor, Robert Liston (1794-1847), a Scottish surgeon renowned for his speed and skill in amputation. Liston performed the first operation in Britain under anaesthetic, taking just 25 seconds. The set was made by John Weiss, a leading surgical instrument maker based in London.

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    Glossary: tenaculum

    An instrument consisting of a fine, sharp hook attached to a handle, and used mainly for taking up arteries, and the like

    Glossary: bone forceps

    forceps used to seize or remove fragments of bone

    Glossary: amputation instrument set

    Set of instruments used for amputation, usually of external limbs. The amputation saw was the primary part, usually present in all sets of this type.

    Glossary: artery forceps

    forceps are a two-bladed instrument with a handle for compressing or grasping tissues in surgical operations, and for handling sterile dressings, etc. Artery forceps are for specifically grasping and compressing an artery.

    Glossary: amputation

    Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

    Glossary: tourniquet

    Designed to compress the blood vessels of a limb. It consists of a bandage, pad and screw. By varying the tightness of the tourniquet, it is possible to control the circulation of blood for a short time.